Friday, May 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: Evolution and Christology

"The God of natural selection is the liberating, healing, and inclusive God of Jesus"

Denis Edwards, cited in LeRon Shults' Christology and Science, 50.

(In other words, Edwards claims that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is consistent with the God assumed in the evolutionary process of natural selection)


At 5/23/2008 11:50 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

For what it is worth, does not this sound a bit too rose-tinted when it comes to the reality and death involved in evolution? Races extinct - yet the love of Christ?

At 5/24/2008 12:38 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

well you certainly have a point there. You really have to put on at least a dozen rose-tinted glasses to see the healing god of Jesus in the cruel machinery of natural selection. But it is a marvelous machinery anyway that can produce a human being like Felix Mendelssohn. I´m sitting here listening to the glorious finale of Mendelssohn´s piano trio no 2. Makes you want to scream Hallelujah although I´m not a fan of the Christian god any more.

At 5/24/2008 2:28 AM, Anonymous Steve Martin said...

Even though I think natural selection is an integral part of God’s creative process, the phrase “The God of Natural Selection” is not the right one here IMHO – better would be “The God of Creation” – which of course includes natural selection. I think Edwards is making an argument for theodicy here (is he? Don’ have the whole context). I believe Polkinghorne says it much better:

God is not a spectator, but a fellow-sufferer, who has himself absorbed the full force of evil. In the lonely figure hanging in the darkness and dereliction of Calvary the Christian believes that he sees God opening his arms to embrace the bitterness of the strange world he has made. The God revealed in the vulnerability of the incarnation and in the vulnerability of creation are one. He is the crucified God, whose paradoxical power is perfected in weakness, whose self-chosen symbol is the King reigning from the gallows From Science and Providence, page 68

The God of Creation and the Crucified God are one and the same.

At 5/24/2008 8:29 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steve Martin wrote:
"The God of Creation and the Crucified God are one and the same."

Not that Christianity in all its variations make much sense anyway, but to say that the Christian god who works through a mindless and cruel process like evolution and natural selection also had to get himself crucified to show us humans that he has a lot of sympathy for us who are caught in the meatmixer makes even less sense. If a human had dreamt up a machine like evolution through natural selection he would be classed as a sadist and
psychopath. I think Polkinhorne would be well advised to read Victor J. Stenger´s " God the failed hypothesis". A good scientific antidote to the doomed efforts of christian scientists like Ken Miller, Collin, and Polkinhorne to show that Darwinism and Christianity are really compatible.

At 5/25/2008 12:52 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Could also make a few comments about Steve Martin´s theology from a very early Christian perspective. I doubt that Paul, Mark, Matthew or Luke would buy into the perspective that the Jewish God himself was hanging on that cross on Golgotha. Despite Nicea, Chalchedon and all other later church creeds there is little to indicate that those early Christians saw Jesus as God. Son of God, Messiah, prophet, SoM, "divine" - yes. But God? No!

At 5/26/2008 6:03 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

"Rose-tinted" is an understatement. Hopefully he expands on this quote a bit in the book. I don't see how these things about God necessarily follow from natural selection. In other words, "Huh?" I think the dude was just trying to sound profound or something. This makes me feel better about my writing and critical thinking skills. If this guy can get published saying stupid shit like this, than I sure as hell can. Thanks for posting!

At 5/26/2008 10:21 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hey, Alex, that quote wound you up a bit, nay? :-)

Antonio, on the question of Paul and divine Christology, you may be interested to read my doctoral work, which Í will have finished in the not too distant future (phew).

At 5/27/2008 2:46 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Perhaps Edwards is not so much attempting to draw some profound comparisons here as he is stating a simple fact. Try reading nothing into the statement beyond the fact that the liberating, healing and inclusive God revealed in Jesus is the very same God who marshaled the those harsh and deadly forces of the evolutionary process. Read this way, the statement reads more like a paradox. But it is true, and one that ought to set us to thinking. But I, too, suffer from the lack of context, and I could be off base.

Antonio suggests that "to say that the Christian god who works through a mindless and cruel process like evolution and natural selection also had to get himself crucified to show us humans that he has a lot of sympathy for us who are caught in the meatmixer makes even less sense." I totally agree, assuming that God chose arbitrarily to create such a cruel "meatmixer" without purpose. Makes no sense at all. But if you assume (as I do) that this universe was created with a purpose, that it was God's answer to some preexistent evil rebellion, that it was created with the purpose of annihilating that evil, and that the process necessarily would involve great suffering, then God's choice to lead the way as the captain of suffering not only makes sense, but exalts him into magnificent heroic stature!

At 5/27/2008 9:08 AM, Anonymous Arni Zachariassen said...

I presume that the quote is from "The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology"? Looks like a good book. What ever the case, he's asking a very important question: "What kind of impact does evolutionary theory have on our view of God?"

At 5/28/2008 2:43 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

yes, I would be very much interested in reading your dictoral thesis on Paul and his view on Jesus divinity. I´m always open to reinterpret things but so far I think I lean more toward the kind of divinity that Dunn reads into Paul. And I hope you will keep in mind in that doctoral thesis of yours that there were different kinds of divinity and different levels of divinity in antiquity, Judaism included.

At 5/28/2008 2:55 AM, Anonymous hutsnwfl said...

well I suppose that your kind of theology is the one I have most problems with. To take a galilean exorcist like Jesus, Satan and his fallen angels (the preexistent evil rebellion?, Adam and Eve and a few other strange things and mix it all up with Darwinism just shows how ridiculous the already tragicomical christian story gets when modern christians try to salvage their wrecked religion. It´s simply a horrible brew and it doesn´t get better by adding new ingredients that don´t go together...

At 5/28/2008 3:03 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Well, I don´t know why my name didn´t show up in my latest message that was meant for Cliff. But it was shurely me who wrote it.


At 5/28/2008 5:47 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...


To take a galilean exorcist like Jesus, Satan and his fallen angels (the preexistent evil rebellion?, Adam and Eve and a few other strange things and mix it all up with Darwinism just shows how ridiculous the already tragicomical christian story gets when modern christians try to salvage their wrecked religion.


Sorry, I just don't share your morose analysis. No, for me, the potential theological implications of Darwinism are exciting, fresh, and entirely in keeping with the thrust of Biblical revelation! Through your lens it all may look like a feeble last-ditch effort to rescue a dying faith. I'm sorry you take such a dismal view of things. Though my lens, modern science just keeps opening new vistas upon age-old truths in remarkable and invigorating ways.

You see a cobbling together of incoherent, obscure and sometimes incompatible data. On the other hand, I see a puzzle coming together in profound elegance. I love jigsaw puzzles, and the exhilaration of finally finding the piece that fits the empty space perfectly. All my faith-walk life, I've been haunted by puzzling questions that have resisted answers. Evolution, and other 19th & 20th Century scientific advancements have been like a breath of fresh air for this man of faith, filling in the puzzle, making sense of reality, and giving more meaning to Biblical Christianity than I've ever seen before.

Strange how you can look from one side and see a "horrible brew", while I from the other see a beautiful tapestry.

At 5/28/2008 8:44 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Well, I wish you all luck in trying to figure out what the "thrust" of biblical revelation really is. I think the simple fact that you believe you can find a "thrust" in a book filled with quite disparate views on the nature of god and a lot of other things, makes me fear that you are reading whatever you want into the bible - a not uncommon phenomenon among christians. Maybe you can write a book someday and show us how the biblical theologies and cosmologies fit like a hand in a glove with Darwinism. I am also eagerly awaiting how you are going to get the fallen angels into the big picture.
On the other hand, the books I have read so far by christian scientists trying to make Christianity and Darwinism go hand in hand have not been particularly convincing. I am thinking of books like Collin´s "The language of God” and Ken Millers´s “Finding Darwin´s God”. By far the best is Ken Millers. Miller appear to be a brilliant biologist and his demolition of dummichkeiten like creationism and intelligent design is great. But his arguments for squezzing a theistic (christian) god into the equation with our darwinistic universe are feeble to say the least. Miller´s argumentation goes rapidly downhill after page 165. Miller is a major biologist but his grasp about religion, some fundamental philosophics and physics is heavily deficient. His reasoning about quantum physics and chaos theory shows with all clarity that he doesn´t know what he is talking about.
As for Francis Collins he appears to be a great geneticist, but appart from that his book sounds more like a sermon. And his arguments mostly taken from C S Lewis are so weak that it is not even worth engaging with them any more than others already have.

As I said to Chris in our earlier debate about Jesus and evolution no matter how much christians try to make a circle into triangle and want to make us believe that the circle and the triangle are really the same thing, it won´t go. But in the world of believers of course anything goes...

At 5/28/2008 9:08 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

„As I said to Chris in our earlier debate about Jesus and evolution no matter how much christians try to make a circle into triangle and want to make us believe that the circle and the triangle are really the same thing, it won´t go”

Antonio, always the provocateur! I think I remember saying that the misfit, the problem, is of your own making.

At 5/28/2008 10:18 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

I hardly think the misfit problem is of my own making. It is not me who tries cook a strangetasting soup made of disparate and logically incompatible elements like a a benevolent god, fallen angels, a flatearth jewish prophet, sicknessbringing demons, microbes, australopithecus afarensis, the same flatearth jewish prophet being part of homo sapiens while simultaniously being a god, homo sapiens turning into homo resurrectus in three days etc etc. I am just pointing out the obvious - it was a silly story from the beginning and it just gets sillier the more incompatible ingredients you put into it.

At 5/28/2008 10:28 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Antonio, I am well aware you don't think the problem lies with you, but that is simply because you are unable to handle the texts - hence your silly rhetoric.

At 5/28/2008 10:34 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

For all reading this thread
I cite from my article on Küng's Der Anfang aller Dinge:
"So how are theology and science to relate to one another? Küng argues
that there should be
• no confrontation model between science and religion, whether of a
fundamentalist-premodern origin, which ignores or suppresses the
results of science or historical-critical biblical exegesis, or a type of
rationalistic-modernism, which from the start declares religion to be
irrelevant, and
no integration model of harmonizing tendency, but rather
• a complementary model of critical-constructive interaction of religion
and science in which their own spheres of specialization are
maintained, all illegitimate transitions avoided, and all one-dimensional
totalizing rejected. (Küng 2006, 57)

At 5/29/2008 12:58 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

I don´t really think the problem is the way I handle the texts. I actually think I have a better grasp about what the biblical texts meant in their ORIGINAL context and what they meant in OTHER contexts (to the historical Jesus for example) than most believers. I am not a big fan of twisting and turning biblical (or any other religious texts) out of their original or later contexts to make them fit whatever may suit me at the moment. Again your "hero" N T Wright is a prime example of this deplorable tendency. And since we have such radically different views on what makes a good historian it doesn´t surprise me one moment that whe also have such radically different views on what real silliness means.

At 5/29/2008 1:11 AM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Küng sounds like a good middle way to me. But I still wonder how Cliff Martin is going to get all those fallen angels into the darwinistic universe we obviously live in :)

At 5/29/2008 3:32 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Antonio writes, I still wonder how Cliff Martin is going to get all those fallen angels into the darwinistic universe we obviously live in.

I must confess my ignorance here with regard the "problem" you apparently see with spiritual forces of evil in our reality. You may need to explain the problem before I can adequately offer a solution. But I'll try.

I (together with all believers I know) see parallel realities in this universe: the material and the immaterial. Spiritual beings (such as angels) are not subject to the same physical laws which govern material beings, perhaps operating in extra dimensions. How, or why, or when certain angels chose to rebel against their Creator I do not know. But, for me, it has little to do with Darwin. As I came to understand how evolution weaves into my Bible-informed concepts about God and reality, I never saw any difficulty with fitting fallen angels into the picture. Help me out. Show me my blind spot here.

My own view about the rebellion against God led by Satan is that it occurred outside of and prior to the creation of this universe, and that this rebellion was the impetus for the creation of this universe. I am developing these thoughts (slowly!) on my blog.

At 5/30/2008 5:48 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Aha! So the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels led God to create a Darwinistic universe. Thats a new twist on the Christian story. Doesn't sound like it has much connection with the biblical stories and theologies (Satan as a fallen angel doesn't even exist in the OT) but keep on going with your work Cliff :)

At 5/30/2008 7:46 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Actually, Antonio, Satan is found (by that name in most versions) numerous times in the O.T., 18 times in the New American Standard Bible. He also goes by the name of Lucifer, and you can read about his fall in Isaiah 14 and elsewhere.

I do know that some of my thoughts range outside of the typical box of Christian Theology (hence, the name of my blog), but interestingly, there is what I consider some strong support for my ideas when Scripture is held up alongside scientific findings of our day. But of course, I am only suggesting some of these ideas for consideration. I'm making no truth claims. But I do believe they make sense with what the Bible tells us coupled with what modern science is discovering. And for me, it's fun!

At 6/03/2008 6:00 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jrez said...

you are doing the fundamental mistake of reading things into the OT that are not there. When I went to catholic school in my youth the nuns taught me that the serpent in Genesis was Satan. Well, now I have studied exegetics and know that the serpent is not Satan. That later Christians have made the serpent into Satan is another matter. The same with satan in Job. He is definitely not the Satan of later christian theology. The same with Lucifer in Isaiah who appears to be the king of Babylon. I think you have some serious studying to do before you go on with your work on combining Darwinism with the fallen angels. A good start would be the book SATAN -
a biography

At 6/03/2008 6:16 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

My last message was meant for Cliff Martin. And "Satan - a biography" i written by Henry Ansgar Kelly. One of those books that makes you realize that the personality of satan changes just as much as the Jewish god - from loyal servant of Yahweh to the rebellious angel.

At 6/04/2008 6:18 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Lucifer in Isaiah who appears to be the king of Babylon.

Of course! It is the nature of O.T. prophesy, particularly Isaiah, to deliver prophetic truth in this "dual-meaning" fashion. The "Immanuel" of Isaiah 7:14 refers both to Isaiah's own son (see chapter 8) and to the coming Messiah (See Matthew 1:21-23).

Nevertheless, I thank you for your counsel. Be assured, I have not stopped, and do not intend to stop studying. It is a life-long venture for me. And no one knows my inadequacy better than myself!

At 6/05/2008 2:44 AM, Anonymous oecolampadius said...

Cognitive dissonance can make any number of two contradictory propositions true! But of course we do not believe i propositional truth anymore, so I am sure that there is some way that we can reconcile it in a narrative way.

At 6/05/2008 7:54 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Very true Oecolampadius. We see cognitive dissonance at work all the time in religious circles. And the efforts to make us believe that one plus one is four and a circle being a triangle are endless. Thats
what the theological seminars are all for.

At 6/05/2008 8:42 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Antonio, Oecolampadius (interesting user name!),

Chaps, cognitive dissonance never makes ‘any number of two contradictory propositions true’, it rather describes the uncomfortable effect of trying to hold two or more mutually contradictory beliefs together. So, and second, it isn’t ‘very true’ Antonio. Once again I wonder what your rhetoric reveals about you.

It seems you may be both confusing cognitive dissonance and / or ‘narrative ways’ with the ‘silly’ idea that truth is a more complex beast than our simplistic either/ors or strict categories like to admit :-)

At 6/05/2008 11:01 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

I think there is more to cognitive dissonance than the way you describe it. Cognitive dissonance is not only the effect of trying to hold two (or more) mutually incompatible beliefs together but cognitive dissonance also leads to further beliefs (most often just as illogical as the first ones) that give believers a sense of having solved the dilemma.

At 6/05/2008 11:31 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Honestly, Antonio, you wouldn't budge on an issue, even if I proved your white was black.

"Cognitive dissonance is not only the effect of trying to hold two.."

Actually, there is nothing more to specifically cognitive dissonance (CD) as I say it. You are now talking about potential responses to CD, solving its effects as well, but then, well, we are not talking strictly about just CD anymore. Your sentence is wrong. DIscussing with you on this blog is a bit like talking with Steven Carr. Can you give me one good reasons why I should bother discussing with you, especially as you swagger in here so often, blitzing off comments as though you are SO right (like others who have slipped into a post-fundie fundie mindset) and the Christian fool is, well, a fool. Why should I bother?

At 6/06/2008 5:55 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

I am not the kind of man that wouldn't budge under any circumstances. And it may well be the case that my definition of cognitive dissonance is taking it a bit too far. Stricty speaking cognitive dissonance appears to be
"a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discerepancy between what you already know or believe and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accomodate new ideas..."

A good example of cognitive dissonance at work in Christianity at the moment is the problem of how to acommodate Darwinism (your position) or reject Darwinism altogether (the position of most evangelicals). And obviously Ken Miller and his followers think they have solved the dilemma although I don't think they have solved anything at all. Another good example of cognitive dissonace at work are N T Wrights feeble attempts to explain away the failed prophecies of Jesus or the evangelists as metaphor. Thats my take on it...

At 6/06/2008 6:06 PM, Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

I forgot to answer your last questions. You asked me why you should bother to discuss with me. Dunno? Maybe because I really don't think you are an idiot. If you managed to get out of the grip of biblical fundamentalism and creationism then I don't see it as impossible that you will get a bit further some day. Now I only pray that you will get out of the grip of that pernicious Bishop back at Durham ;)

P S And you are completely wrong about me being a postfundie. Although I went to a catholic school from 7 to 14 I never lost my critical faculties. Asked a lot of unsettling questions already at that time...


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